Unsafe Drinking Water and Poor Sanitation: Facts and Causes
- Many people do not have access to drinking water;
- Health risks are often exacerbated by poor sanitation;
- Urban solid waste disposal poses a threat too;
- Social inequality plays a role in providing access;
- Urban sprawl makes it costly to build infrastructure.
Note: The World Health Organization (2020) estimates that as many as 785 million people lack access to even basic water resources, with some 144 million depending on surface water. Health risks are exacerbated by poor sanitation: the WHO (2020) reports that 100 million urban dwellers still practice open defecation. Urban solid waste disposal is still an issue and needs to be improved to increase water quality. Urban sprawl, or uncontrolled urban growth, makes it harder to build infrastructure, and low-income neighborhoods suffer the most.
Unsafe Drinking Water and Poor Sanitation: Adverse Effects
- Contaminants enter the water through various means;
- Contaminated drinking water causes many deaths;
- Contaminated water carries a lot of diseases;
- For some, there are no immediate symptoms;
- Contaminated water is especially harmful to children.
Note: The World Health Organization (2020) reports that diarrhea from contaminated water causes 500,000 deaths worldwide per year. Consuming contaminated water leads to gastrointestinal problems, nausea, cramps, pain, and dehydration (Ashbolt, 2015).
Health Promotion Plan: Evaluation
- Community-based intervention requires household evaluation;
- It can be done with home improvement campaigns;
- Mobilizers can carry out home to home visits;
- During home visits, risk factors are assessed;
- Dwellers are warned about the implications.
Note: Household evaluation under the home improvement campaign is a preventive measure that also serves educational purposes. Some factors to watch out for include maintenance of restrooms, personal hygiene, solid waste management, and water quality and drainage.
Health Promotion Plan: Clean Up Exercises
- Warning each individual household is not sufficient;
- Intervention needs to be at the community level;
- Group effort is more efficient than individual effort;
- It promotes the right cause;
- It mobilizes the community and sets a precedent.
Note: The clean-up exercises include but are not limited to sweeping the territory, creating drainage channels, and obliterating overgrown vegetation (Musoke et al., 2018). Reduced waste will avert the vector breeding of rodents and insects that contaminate the water.
Safety Promotion through Water Quality Assessment
- A single intervention is not enough;
- Instead, communities need continuous improvement;
- Improvement is only possible through ongoing assessment;
- Water quality improvement is a mutual effort;
- Both the government and dwellers shall take part.
Note: The local government needs to collaborate with laboratories and set standards for drinking water. Locals responsible for water resources need to learn how to use them in a healthy way.
Safety Promotion through Chlorination
- Boiling water can help purify it;
- Boiling is not always possible;
- Some communities may benefit from chlorination;
- Chlorine tablets can be introduced;
- They are safe and easy to use.
Note: In some of the poorest neighborhoods, people struggle to even boil water to improve its quality. In this case, they can resort to chlorine tablets such as Aquasafe that are appropriate for purifying drinking water (Musoke et al., 2018).
Protecting Infants: Washing Hands
- Protecting infants starts from simple routines;
- Family members need to improve hygiene;
- Handwashing plays a crucial role in promoting health;
- Handwashing prevents the transfer of bacteria;
- It averts gastrointestinal diseases in babies.
Note: Promoting hygiene routines as simple as handwashing can be largely beneficial for communities. It also sets a positive example for children who repeat after older family members.
Protecting Infants: Examining Their Stool
- Diarrhea is dangerous for infants;
- Health workers need to be trained for examination;
- Parents should also be literate;
- Prompt referral to a specialist saves lives;
- Health services availability is important too.
Note: Eradicating diarrhea, a treatable but often deadly disease, is possible through unifying efforts. Parents need to be educated on intoxication symptoms and seek help as soon as possible.
Protecting Infants: Watching out for Dehydration
- Diarrhea can lead to dehydration;
- Infants are especially vulnerable to dehydration;
- Contaminated water can cause diarrhea;
- Parents need to control water quality;
- Parents need to keep track of feedings.
Note: Infants’ small bodies cannot retain a lot of fluids; therefore, it is important to keep them hydrated. Keeping track of feedings is essential to this intervention, but what is more critical is knowing the quality of water that babies are exposed to.
Sources for Health Promotion
- USA: National Water Quality Program monitors water quality, detects problems, and offers solutions. It uses technology in modeling contamination and funds research at the state level;
- United States Agency for International Development (USAID) promotes hygiene and changes people’s behaviors to make them more proactive;
- Healthy Schools, Healthy People, It’s a SNAP! Awards Program helps prevent school absenteeism due to diseases caused by poor sanitation and hygiene habits. It offers solutions for schools that want to promote health literacy in students;
- Healthy Schools, Healthy People by CDC;
- The Water Project is a source for teachers wishing to incorporate environmental and health literacy in their lesson plans.
Ashbolt, N. J. (2015). Microbial contamination of drinking water and human health from community water systems. Current Environmental Health Reports, 2(1), 95-106.
Musoke, D., Ndejjo, R., Halage, A. A., Kasasa, S., Ssempebwa, J. C., & Carpenter, D. O. (2018). Drinking water supply, sanitation, and Hygiene promotion interventions in two slum communities in Central Uganda. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2018, 1-9.
The World Health Organization. (2020). Unsafe drinking-water, sanitation and waste management. Web.